Colour Influences Behaviour - That's a Very Powerful Thing

I've invested a lot of time learning more about the area of Applied Colour Psychology. I knew colours have meaning, but a lot of the information available is around Colour Symbolism (referring to Cultural meaning) and meanings put on colour for marketing purposes. This is really interesting but it's not the complete story.

So read on, to find out how you can use colour to your advantage.


We are influenced by colour in 3 ways: psychologically, culturally or from personal association.

Understanding more about Colour Psychology and Colour Physics can completely change the ball game. For example, I am able to create an overall experience using a ‘human centred’ design process - so this is based on how people will think, feel and react in a space.

If you think about that for a moment - that's really powerful. You can use colour to influence behaviour. Not just create a mood or style, as is often all that is talked about with colour in interior design.

So get your head around this.

Colour influences Behaviour Everything designed by nature or humans has a colour. And every colour creates an emotional response - either consciously or sub-consciously. In every moment of our daily life we are constantly having emotional reactions to the colours around us. 80% of these reactions are subconscious.

Colour is the first thing we take in – before words, tone of voice, packaging, text, shape, form, furnishings etc. It has a psychological effect.

These emotional responses influence our behaviour at some level. Our response can be inherent/instinctual i.e. hard wired from pre-historic times/nature. For example red signals danger – beware. We stop at a red light. The response could also be contemporary i.e. learned from your experiences. For example pink is for girls, blue is for boys.

Here's a question for you. Have you ever picked up an item from the store shelf and put it down again without really thinking about it? Or walked into a café or store and out again without really making a conscious decision to leave - you just did? (besides the obvious – it was too full or too noisy). It’s likely this is because the first message we are getting is through colour – and the designers have got it wrong.

They didn't take into account what positive behaviour they wanted to encourage (aligned with brand values). They may have been more focused on 'getting your attention in a crowded environment'. But in doing so, have used the wrong colours. So, the result is the product or environment is sending out mixed messages and we walk away. "Colour sells - and the right colour sells better".

That’s how powerful colour is.

So now we know colour influences or can change behaviour. Maybe you'll think differently about what colours you want for a child's bedroom.. primary red, yellow and blue may not be the best choice. Children play in their rooms, but they also need to sleep.

Or your dining room that is used to sit around the table and have lively conversations - but is also your home office where you want to be productive? What will happen there? The lounge where we need to relax, entertain and focus on the TV or other devices - all in one space. What should we do there?

The best colour schemes will take this into account - then the best decisions will depend on how well they work together, the tone and proportions as well.

If we don’t work out at the beginning what behaviour you’re wanting from a given space – then you’ll be unhappy with your colour scheme within a short space of time. You may select your favourite colours, or make trend-based decisions, but something just isn't right. You don't feel at ease in that space. You don't like it.

Colour Blocks. No, I'm not talking about crayons. Everyone has psychological colour blocks, including Colour Consultants, Designers or anyone who works with colour. Its normal. That may mean being resistant to an entire colour – or just a variation of that colour.

Colours don’t work in isolation – they work together, so we open up better options if we can uncover those blocks. As mentioned, it will be because of psychological, cultural or personal association reasons. eg I don’t like bottle green because it reminds me of my school uniform and I hated school.

This also helps dispel some of the myths around colour. Colour is not simply 'subjective' – that kind of thinking creates stalemate situations.

Your colours need to work together, not in isolation. Colour is never seen in isolation, so it’s important to consider how colours together will be perceived. Proportion is also fundamentally important here.

As each colour has both positive and negative psychological effects, you may not feel happy with your chosen colour - simply because there is too much of it, or its out of balance.

The interesting thing about Colour Psychology is that is can be applied in your home, work space, any place where people interact. Or in the clothes you wear, your many different situations.

You just need to take a bit of time to plan and think to get the best results.

So, if you'd like to work with me to create an amazing space - one that encourages positive behaviour, please get in touch.

Best wishes


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